Of the 900 or so people who live in the Transylvanian village for which this working Gypsy wedding band is named, only about 20 percent are of Rom origin–so the group’s exuberant repertoire includes plenty of Hungarian and Romanian numbers in addition to the material closest to the musicians’ hearts. Untrained Westerners probably won’t have much luck differentiating between a csardas and a pontozo, much less a suru verbunk and a szekely verbunk, but it doesn’t take a musicologist to hear that they’re all meant for dancing. Unlike other recent visitors from the region–Hungary’s Okros Ensemble and Romania’s Taraf de Haidouks–whose instrumentation includes the cimbalom and accordion, Szaszcsavas is an all-string combo, and a ferocious one at that. The upright bass and the kontra, a three-stringed viola with a flat bridge used exclusively to play chords, sort of saw out the rhythm, low, fast, and metronomic. On some of its recordings this group adds a second “low-stringed” kontra, while the zigzagging, high-speed melodies are sketched out by as many as three violinists who play unison lines with dazzling precision. This music has more motion than anything you’ll ever hear at Crobar. Saturday, April 7, 3 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-829-3055. Saturday, April 7, 5 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Photographer.